Secret Service at the Chinese Embassy on September 26. (Julia Mouketo/ҹֱ)

Foreign Embassies in DC Face Security Risks

The Secret Service closed a section of Van Ness Street NW, adjacent to the Chinese Embassy after discovering a suspicious package. This incident and others raised concerns about the safety of foreign embassies in Washington D.C.

In a recent security incident, a section of Van Ness Street NW, adjacent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., was temporarily closed by the Secret Service on September 26th. The closure was prompted by the discovery of a suspicious package, raising concerns about the safety of foreign embassies in the nation’s capital.

Secret Service Public Information Officer Anthony Guglielmi shed light on the incident, telling ҹֱ that heightened vigilance is standard procedure around embassies and foreign missions.

“Our awareness and vigilance around embassies and foreign missions are very high,” Guglielmi said.

He explained that such incidents often involve unattended items or bags left near embassy premises and that authorities proactively ensure public safety.

Chinese Embassy In Washington D.C.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. (Julia Mouketo/ҹֱ)

Guglielmi explained that, at the time of the discovery, there was no evidence of malicious intent associated with the suspicious package found near the Chinese Embassy. While the Secret Service did not disclose the content of the package, it is worth noting that such discoveries lead to security threats.

ҹֱ contacted the Chinese Embassy about the suspicious package through email.

“We are not aware of the details, and we suggest you consult DC authorities,” The Chinese Embassy Spokesperson replied.

This incident follows earlier security concerns this year when suspicious packages were discovered at the Russian Embassy in and . These incidents also prompted heightened security measures and investigations.

American University Professor of International Studies Joseph Young, an expert in foreign relations and domestic terrorism, said foreign embassies were symbolic. They represent the territory of another sovereign state within a host nation, making them accessible outlets for expressing discontent.

“It becomes an easy access point to strike out if you’re upset with another country,” Professor Young said.

The recent security incident near the Chinese Embassy also follows a .

On Sep. 24, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., causing no harm or significant damage. Secret Service officers quickly responded to the incident in the Adams-Morgan area. While Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez labeled it a “terrorist attack,” no one was hurt. This event follows a at the embassy by a Cuban asylum seeker.

Young suggested that such incidents may be related to the fact that authoritarian countries are often targeted due to restrictions on dissent and protest within their borders, making embassies grounds for expression.

“It’s impossible, let’s say if you are a Cuban dissident in the U.S., to strike out at Castro, but you can certainly throw a Molotov cocktail at the embassy,” Young said. 

Embassies have been, for a long time, places where people go to protest peacefully. Young underscored the importance of supporting peaceful protests as a fundamental democratic right.

“This is a cornerstone of democracy, being able to go out into the streets and protest things that you think are unfair,” Young said.

Among frequent protesters is the Adas Israel Congregation, which currently leads monthly demonstrations at the Chinese embassy. Members of the congregation routinely protest what they describe as “the Chinese government’s genocidal actions against the 12 million Uyghur minority.”

In a 2022 , the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur may be considered crimes against humanity.

The congregation’s Uyghur Crisis Response Teams Co-chair Karen Guberman shared the group’s experience protesting with ҹֱ.

“We always feel very safe because The Secret Service is always there and we don’t use loud speaking devices or anything like that, so we don’t need a permit,” Guberman said.

In terms of security for the surroundings of the embassies, Guglielmi said that, in worst-case scenarios, security incidents are typically confined to the embassy premises. Therefore, they are not a direct threat to neighboring residential areas.

The Secret Service has not provided any update on the suspicious package found near the Chinese Embassy. Guglielmi said it suggests there is nothing to worry about.

Julia Mouketo

Julia is a reporter for ҹֱ covering the Tenleytown and Friendship Heights area. She is a graduate student at American University. Prior to ҹֱ, she worked for The Roanoke Times and Cardinal News.

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